More older men initiating divorces
It took 10 years for Mr. Kim to realize that he no longer wanted to be with his wife. The couple had been married for more than two decades, but the downward spiral began in 2004, after he sued a man whom he believed was having an affair with her.
The vicious circle continued year after year: Kim would grow suspicious of his wife’s extramarital relationship; she would run away, he would beg her to return, they would reconcile. And back to square one.
On the verge of turning 70 years old, Kim, who requested to use a pseudonym, finally came to the conclusion that he wanted to start a new life. He filed for divorce and separated from his wife last month.
Recent data show that Kim and his wife are just one of tens of thousands of couples married 20 years or more who are breaking up or have already split. And this trend is drastically increasing, according to the Office of Court Administration at the Supreme Court.
An October report shows that, of the total number of couples who divorced last year (115,292), 28.1 percent (32,433) had been married to their spouses for two decades or longer.
The percentage of breakups among older married couples has seen a steady rise, more than 1 percentage point every year since 2009, when that group accounted for just 22.8 percent of all divorces. The rate rose to 23.8 percent in 2010; 24.8 percent in 2011; and 26.4 percent in 2012.
“Most older men who wish for a divorce complain that [their wives] belittle them in the household once they [retire],” said Lee In-cheol, a lawyer at Law Firm Win.
Lee ho-seon, the head of a counseling center for the elderly, agreed and added that men who consider a split after decades in a marriage typically feel “intimidated” when their wives and daughters team up against them when it comes to family matters.
In a society with Confucian roots where households are generally patriarchal, retirement for most men is not what it used to be.
Instead, their pride suffers when they realize they no longer play a key role in the family, Lee speculated, and many men decide to leave before they are rejected. This sudden loss of authority is what scares them, he said.
Some analysts like Park So-hyun, from the Korea Legal Aid Center for Family Relations, point out that divorce cases among older demographics stem from financial strains.
Men who take early retirement or whose businesses fail come to realize their family is short on cash, Park said. They then take that anger out on their wives.
One lawyer, who specializes in divorce cases, added that many splits also occur due to factors outside the home, with some seniors engaging in extramarital affairs. People in their 60s to 70s are “no less healthy” than those in their 40s to 50s, said the source, who requested anonymity. “They’re really curious about the opposite sex.”
BY LEE SUNG-EUN, JEON YOUNG-SUN [firstname.lastname@example.org]